France's Louvre Museum Shuts Down Amid Coronavirus Concerns

France's famed Louvre Museum in Paris announced Sunday that it would be closed over fears of the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), after the European nation's reported cases of the new virus rose to 100 on Saturday.

"An informational meeting on the public health situation linked to #COVID19 prevention measures following the ministerial instructions transmitted by the competent authorities has delayed the opening of the #Louvre on Sunday, March 1," the museum, which houses the iconic Mona Lisa painting by Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci, posted to its official Twitter feed. "The museum cannot open at the moment."

Museum workers had expressed concerns about the viruses spread, although no cases have been reported among the Louvre's approximately 2,300 staff members.

"We are very worried because we have visitors from everywhere," Andre Sacristin, a Louvre employee and representative for the employees' union, told The Associated Press.

Louvre Museum
People queue at the Pyramide du Louvre entrance on February 28 in Paris STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty

"The risk is very, very, very great," Sacristin insisted. "It's only a question of time [before workers will become infected," he added.

The Louvre's decision came after France officially banned all large events of 5,000 people or more on Saturday, in a bid to curb the spread of the highly contagious virus. Two people have died in France as a result of coronavirus, which currently does not have any approved vaccine.

"A new stage of the epidemic has been reached," French Health Minister Olivier Véran said Friday, according to Radio France Internationale.

"We're at the second phase," he noted. "That's to say the virus is going around our country and we have to stop it spreading. For a little while it's probably best not to shake people by the hand."

Around the world, more than 85,000 people have been confirmed to have the virus, with the vast majority of the infections being in China, where the virus was first discovered. Of those known to have been infected, nearly 3,000 had died as of Saturday. Experts best assessments suggest that the virus' death rate is 2 percent or lower, but the risk of infection has led to global panic and a large drop in the stock market.

The chances of dying from coronavirus appear to be significantly lower for people under the age of 40, particularly if they do not have any pre-existing health conditions. The death rate starts to spike among people over the age of 50, with those most likely to die being over the age of 80. Men also appear to be somewhat more likely to die after being infected.

Vice President Mike Pence--who President Donald Trump has tasked with heading up the U.S. effort to contain the spread of the virus--said on Sunday that a vaccine being developed to combat the virus would go to clinical trials in six weeks, Fox News reported. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been 71 confirmed cases in the U.S.